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U.N. Panel Is Scathing in Its Criticism of a British Report on Race

GENEVA — United Nations human rights experts on Monday issued a devastating critique of a report on race published last month by the British government, accusing its authors of repackaging racist tropes, distorting history and normalizing white supremacy.

The British race report was “a tone-deaf attempt at rejecting the lived realities of people of African descent and other ethnic minorities” in Britain, the U.N. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said.

“In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent,” the U.N. panel said in a statement.

The British report, which was commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in response to the outpouring of protest that followed the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, concluded that Britain did not suffer from institutional racism and instead offered “a model for other white-majority countries.”

The British Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which wrote the report — and whose members are mostly members of minority groups — said the U.N. panel had “grossly misrepresented” its findings.

The panel, it said, appears to have reacted more to negative press coverage than the substance of its work. And a spokesman for the commission said the criticisms “risk fostering division on the subject of race, rather than constructive discussion on the issues.”

A spokesperson for Mr. Johnson’s office said it was considering how to follow up on the British commission’s recommendations, which it said had the potential to promote equality.

But the U.N. panel’s harsh verdict, which comes as Americans await the outcome of a trial in the Floyd killing, is an embarrassing blow for Mr. Johnson’s approach to race from the United Nations human rights machinery as it prepares for a high-profile debate on racism in the Human Rights Council in June.

Britain’s commission said in its report, released in March, that racism remained “a real force” in British society easily amplified by social media, but that discrimination in Britain, was more a result of socio-economic inequities than ethnicity or skin color.

“We no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities,” the commission’s chairman, Tony Sewell, said in a foreword to the report.

Among other major findings, the commission said that South Asian and Black African students consistently outperformed white students in compulsory education, arguing the school system had promoted social mobility and helped to transform British society over the last 50 years.

The report’s defenders said it delivered new facts that helped puncture outdated myths and narratives about racial discrimination. But it also drew widespread criticism from…

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